She came walking out of the desert, just as the famous poet had centuries before. Impossible for them both to have survived that relentless furnace, that destroyer of all life. Now the nameless woman lies horribly scarred and close to death in an Asylum deep in the North African desert. An Australian official, a man code-named John Devlin, has come to question her, despite the protests of her carers. It is clear that the woman and Devlin share some kind of past, and all kinds of secrets - but the greatest secret is the one she will die to protect. As the wind calls up a deadly sandstorm, the inhabitants of the Asylum discover they are linked by a diary written by the poet Rimbaud, who in 1890 also confronted the implacable power of the desert. Over the next one hundred and twenty years, everyone who sees the diary will want it. Most will do anything to possess it.